- Published: Monday, 15 November 2010
- Written by Graham Mitchell
- Hits: 8173
It's always handy to have a few resources to help guide your learning experience. In this article I discuss some of the resources I've used to aid with evaluating the 16-bit PIC24 and learning to program with "C". A special thanks to Jerry for his guidance thus far.
Explorer 16 Development Board
The Explorer 16 Development Board by Microchip allows end-users to evaluate both 16-bit and 32-bit microcontrollers which include PIC24, dsPIC and PIC32. I've purchased one recently am finding it very useful with my delve into PIC24 micros.·
The Explorer 16 can be brought from Microchip Direct (US$129.99 at the time of writing). The features of the development board include:
- Includes PIC24FJ128GA010 and the dsPIC33FJ256GP710 DSC Digital Signal Controller PIMs (100-pin version) or the PIC24FJ64GA004 PIM (44-pin version).
- Alpha-numeric 16 x 2 LCD display.
- Interfaces to MPLAB ICD 2, MPLAB REAL ICE, USB, and RS-232.
- Includes Microchip's TC1047A high accuracy, analog output temperature sensor.
- Expansion connector to access full devices pin-out and bread board prototyping area.
- PICTailTM Plus connector for expansion boards.
- Full documentation CD includes user's guide, schematics and PWB layout.
It would have been nice if they also included the external power adaptor with the package. I had to modify one of my own 9V DC power adaptors with a 2.5mm adaptor for powering the board. With that said, you can power the board directly via the PICkit 2 or 3.
You could save a couple of dollars and build your own development board or breadboard your projects. It would depend on your experience with PIC24 devices and electronics in general..
There is a book that makes the perfect companion for those who are new to either (or both) PIC24 or the Explorer 16, "Programming 16-bit Microcontrollers in C", also known as "Learning to Fly the PIC24". It walks the end user through each scenario as if it were a flight which includes a flight plan, the flight and finally the post flight briefing.
There are fail-safe check lists to cater for all levels of experience, and should keep you out of trouble. Also, its a good idea to keep in touch with the reference site as it lists errata and FAQs discovered by other people or the author himself. Before you start programming the board, I suggest making a backup of the original firmware (handy for fault finding).
Some of the projects include:
- Working with interrupts.
- Interfacing with the onboard External EEPROM.
- Serial communication with a PC.
- Interfacing with the onboard LCD.
- Making Analogue to Digital Conversions (ADC).
- Interfacing with PS/2 devices.
- Mass storage with SD/MMC cards.
- Creating a media player.
New to C?
The book "C Programming Language (2nd Edition)" comes highly recommended from myself, other Digital DIY members (cheers Jerry) and the author of Learning to Fly the PIC24.
It explores C from the ground up, and while it's end use was designed for programming on a personal computer - the approach is much the same when creating code with MPLABs C30 or C32.
Don't forget that there's the Digital DIY Forums for support as well.
If C is your first exposure to programming, go slowly and meticulously no matter what resource you're using to guide your learning experience. Alternately, if you do not need to use a 16/32-bit MCU then try using a Basic type language with the 8-bit device family. Several of which can be found in the above menu "PIC Programming" (I recommend Swordfish).
Originally I was using the PICkit 2, though there was an issue with the Explorer 16 being held in reset after programming. In any-case, I purchased a PICkit 3 some time ago and decided to use it as there's far more support for newer devices and ICD (In Circuit Debugging).
The PICKit 3 has proven to be a handy companion thus far while working my way through the book "Learning to Fly The PIC24" and integrates seamlessly with MPLAB for quick debugging and programming. The PICkit 3 can also be purchased from Microchip Direct.
It goes without saying that one of the greatest resources during the last few weeks has been the community here at Digital DIY. Between the forum, articles and general chat - I've had some great guidance from many members thus far.
If you found this interesting then keep an eye out for future articles as many will include the Explorer 16 and PIC24 projects.